You work in tech. You sit in front of a computer for at least 8 hours a day. Are you actively doing something to counteract the negative effects?
A month ago, I started having a problem with dry eyes. My eyes would feel uncomfortable and turn red after a prolonged amount of screen time. In the process of trying to figure out what caused it, I had to do a few tests that apparently uncovered another set of issues. These few issues then made me have to do some more tests. It cost me quite a lot of money, but ultimately (and fortunately!), the issues turned out to be not that serious. But still, the whole experience was truly a wake-up call for me.
"I need to start taking better care of myself", I thought.
I've been working in tech for ~5 years. For the first 2.5 years, I lived near my office. Most of the time, I walked a 15-min walk to the office. I walked back home as well. I ate bread and drank chocolate milk and/or iced coffee almost every day at the office since they were provided for free. I would usually have a relatively cheap lunch at the office cafeteria. For dinner, I'd usually eat either street food (nasi goreng, etc.) or a basic dinner at a warteg. As you probably can tell, my diet was far from the healthiest.
In the earlier days, I'd say I worked pretty hard, albeit not extremely hard. I often continue learning new stuff at home after work, until around 11 pm to 12 pm. There were a few nights when I slept in the office. Sometimes it was because of a project, other times it was because I was too lazy to walk back home. 😅
I didn't exercise much. Daily walks to the office and up and down the office stairs were most of my physical activities every day. Sometimes I'd play basketball with colleagues, but that's about it.
At some point, I cut myself some slack and started to play video games instead of learning every day after work. I thought to myself I should be more relaxed and enjoy life more.
One day, COVID-19 happened. We started working remotely. That essentially removed most of my daily physical activities in my life. No more walking to the office, no more basketball, no nothing. I started regularly exercising at home, but at some point, I just stopped doing them. Looking back, I think it was mostly caused by my awful sleep schedule. I tend to play video games late (up to 12 am to 1 am, mostly). Once I went to bed, often I would watch some videos on my phone before sleeping. My nights of sleep were bad. It messed up my energy level in the morning and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Where that gets me today
I am not really in a bad shape, but I definitely wish I am in a better one. Remember that I mentioned I did a few tests during my dry-eyes situation? Well, apparently I have a high cholesterol level and a very low vitamin D level. Fortunately, I am relatively young and I found out early. I've started to adjust my lifestyle ever since.
Why I wrote this post
I feel like people don't talk about these kinds of stuff in public that much. You might think it's common sense, but I believe there are some people like me who genuinely don't understand this stuff.
I am pretty dumb about life-related things. You know, the things people would think of as common sense; things people probably think that everyone should've known already. For people like me, I wouldn't have learned to really take care of myself if not because of my dry-eyes issue.
For the most part in the last 5 years, I've been living some aspects of my life without a clear plan. I did good at work and improving my tech-related skills, but my life skills were awful. I ate unhealthily, did pretty much no exercise, played video games a lot, and slept badly. Did I think about how those things would affect my life in the long term?
When that happens, I'd try to change my lifestyle to be healthier. Then at some point, I would revert back to my old lifestyle. I took things for granted. I thought that things will work out like they always do. But no, things do not always work out. Recent events have made me realize that actions really do have consequences. You reap what you sow. Maybe not in the near future, but the effects of our decision today will definitely start to show at some point in the future.
What I want to share
If you are working indoors with a computer every day, evaluate your lifestyle! I learned this the hard way and I sincerely hope others won't have to. I am no health expert, but these are some tips I'd like to share:
- Get your morning sun! It helps with your vitamin D level. 15 min should be enough.
- Eat a balanced diet. Start looking at nutrition facts of the food you're eating and make sure you got enough of everything. Not too much, not too little. IMO, cutting the amount of sugar, dairy products, and red meat consumption will help most people.
- Exercise for at least 30 min a day. I see most people jog. I personally prefer jumping rope and playing around by myself on a basketball court.
- If you don't already have one, find a hobby that doesn't involve screen time. It'll help with the amount of screen time you have every day.
- Rest your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. I am using @sindresorhus's Pandan app to help me with this.
- Since you are resting your eyes every 20 minutes, use the time to pace around your room as well so you aren't sitting for too long. Don't do what I did. I used to work 8 hours a day and then proceed to play video games again for hours.
- Drink enough water, it's just healthy. As a nice added bonus, this will cause you to go to the toilet from time to time, which also helps with sitting too long.
Doing these might be hard. Some require willpower, others require money. I used to think that I need to optimize my life to save money, but that is the wrong way to think about it. Spending more money to achieve a healthier and sustainable lifestyle is the way to go. I realize there's nothing good from having a fat bank account if I'd end up spending them on medical bills AND be sick at the same time!
Investing in our own well-being is important. It allows us to do our best work and be there for our loved ones.
While I think most people think this stuff is common sense, I do hope this writing will end up helping some people. People who might not have learned this stuff before, people who might need a bit of a slap in the face to wake up, people like me.
I also hope that our community would talk about these things more in public, like on Twitter! We talk a lot about work and technical stuff but I wish we can see more things related to life and physical and mental well-being.
At the end of the day, we're all just human beings, living our life; we just happen to work in tech. We've been sharing and helping each other about tech-related stuff for so long, wouldn't it be nice if we also start sharing and helping each other in general life stuff?